What Louie's "Fat Girl" Episode Got Wrong (And Right)Kit Steinkellner

Last night’s episode of “Louie” (an FX program that heavily fictionalizes the life of comedian Louis C.K.) featured a storyline between Louie and new character Vanessa (Sarah Baker), a waitress at the Comedy Cellar, a club where Louie is a regular. The characters spark. Vanessa is charismatic, hilarious, awesomely honest, and a complete sweetheart. She’s basically Louie’s dream girl. That is, she would be if Louie didn’t dismiss her as being overweight, and if he didn’t make her weight a problem. In the previous episode Louie aggressively hit on every skinny waitress in the club. He didn’t have half the chemistry with these girls as he did with Vanessa. Yet he has made dress size a dealbreaker when it comes to dating. So as gorgeous as Vanessa is, inside and out, she doesn’t fit into Louie’s dream girl’s jeans and the two never have a chance at romance.

This episode is not perfect. It’s problematic. Willa Paskin, in her Slate piece “Louie Has No Idea What It’s Like to Be a ‘Fat Girl’. Neither Does Louis C.K.” takes the show to task for Vanessa’s final speech at the tail end of the episode where the waitress takes the comedian to task for making her weight the end all be all:

“Vanessa’s teachable moment, and the episode more largely, is as scathing to Louie as possible. But it’s also condescending to Vanessa: I mean, if all Vanessa wanted in life was to hold hands with a nice guy, a girl as cool as she is could do just that. Wonder if we’ll ever see a fat girl on TV who demands more.”

Meanwhile, Danielle Henderson at Vulture, in her piece “What Louie Gets Right and Wrong About Weight and Women,” also has problems with the final speech, in particular Vanessa’s line “I don’t need a boyfriend or husband, I just want to hold hands with a nice guy,” to which Henderson (who labels herself “fat” earlier in this think-piece) says:

“Fat girls …want sex, and love, and marriage, and happiness in all the ways that every non-sociopathic person wants those things…. In her entire romantic life, all she wants to do is hold hands, like an anemic fourth grader who doesn’t know what dating or sex even is. After all the bombastic pomp of her lead up, in the end she’s willing to settle for not much at all.”

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  1. Whatever happened to dating who you’re attracted to? Why does everything have to be a societal problem?

    The most important factor when searching for a suitable mate is finding someone you’re compatible with and who you can be friends with. But physical attraction is also a key component.. I don’t think we should be beating up on guys if they choose to go for the skinnier girls because that’s what they find pleasing to the eye. It’s a matter of preference, not some sort of prejudice.

    Great scene. Great acting. Great writing. The longer conversation it has started though seems to be veering off into some misguided directions.

  2. Look at Louie….he’s not buffed nor is he all that attractive but he could still be worth loving. So why not her?

  3. The problem with these “WHY DID SHE ONLY WANT TO HOLD HANDS? WHY COULDN’T SHE WANT SEX??” articles is that they missed a crucial line from Vanessa. She said something along the lines of, “If I just wanted to get laid, I could go get laid.”

    To her, holding hands wasn’t like being “an anemic fourth grader.” I don’t know what condescending asshole wrote that, but they’re wrong. She was just saying she wants someone who actually cares. Something as small as a public display of affection, like holding hands, means someone genuinely cares. They’re not ashamed of her.

    “Willing to settle for not much at all.” Give me a break.

    • I couldn’t agree more, and you stole my thunder. The whole point of the show was that she felt she deserved the very public show of affection that is holding hands with someone. It’s really something you only do with someone you really care about. Sorry Kit, but that’s a fail on those perspectives.

    • Those who feel inadequate always feel that way.

  4. A better article to read is the AV Club article.

    • Agreed! I feel like the AV Club review looked at the episode and said, “How do these characters interact, how do they develop, and what world view does this show?” and THEN it applied it to society. I feel like this review just said, “Let’s look at Louie immediately in the context of society and not worry about characters, but rather what group they stand for in society.”
      No, the episode isn’t perfect, but I think that too often, people get caught up in the cultural implications of an episode that wasn’t really trying to make one.

  5. NO.NO.NO. The episode doesn’t do anything wrong.

    The episode was about letting the fat girl speak for herself, as well as starting a conversation about the portrayal of fat women in pop culture and how they get treated in real life.

    First of all the character was confident; she said if she wanted to have sex, she could have it anytime, but what she really wanted was for someone as average as Louie to date her. You can’t expect her to demand to be President when she can’t get Louie to hold her hands.

    Second of all there is a big difference between need and want. She doesn’t “need” a husband or a boyfriend, but she “wants” to not be treated differently. She wants people to admit that they see her as a fat person.

    “Fat girls want sex, and love, and marriage, and happiness” has nothing to do with the Louie episode. Also Vanessa didn’t say he represented all the fat girls in the world; she was talking about herself as an individual.

  6. I feel like the episode was completely honest… I think they got it just right. I don’t understand these bloggers getting upset about it, or criticising it… it’s probably because it was too real. It hit home for them as it did for me, and they didn’t like it… . The truth is uncomfortable sometimes… it just is… but that’s precisely why it needs to be told!
    – I give props to Louie and the actress who played Vanessa. That took some real guts. To get to the reality of it, and not make it sappy or contrived.

    In reality, all any of us ever wants is to hold hands with someone who loves us… that’s it. It’s not about sex or marriage… it’s about acceptance.

    I was touched in a very deep way by the episode, and it reaffirmed my love of the show… It tells the truth, even when the truth isn’t very pretty.

  7. Also not everyone wants to go around having sex…and some people aren’t ready for marriage or love.

  8. You say that you wonder if there will ever be a fat woman on film who will demand more. What about Rebel Wilson? She is confident as heck in all her movies.

  9. Are you implying that people who aren’t interested in sex, love and marriage are sociopaths? Really?